This is not an endorsement of the current New Zealand flag. This is simply accepting that for the time being the New Zealand people have decided that the Union Jack + 4 Stars of the Southern Cross shall be the New Zealand flag.
The time for changing the flag is coming. This was not it for several reasons, not least key voting constituencies were not having a bar of a new flag, but also because there seemed to be something quite artificial about the manner in which it was done.
We might not know the full rationale that led Prime Minister John Key to think that there would be a good sound case for changing the flag. However, we do know that in the years and months proceeding it, there was a determined and persistently strong chorus of resistance that the Prime Minister ended up not being able to ignore. It came from all corners of society, from fellow National party members, to war vets and even to those barely old enough to vote, but old enough none the less to realize the importance attached to the flag.
Although the Prime Minister may have gotten it wrong this, as many think he did, Mr Key may have set off something larger in terms of constitutional change whose full impact might not be known for several years. This something – whatever it maybe – may end up being the true legacy of an otherwise unspectacular Prime Minister.
For me it was the links to Britannia and the acknowledgement that the wartime generation fought and died for this flag. It was an acknowledgement that under this flag, although the Silver Fern is imprinted on New Zealand graves overseas, 30,000 men and women in two world wars and a host of smaller conflicts went to war under it and did not come back under it. I cannot ignore that.
But eventually that generation will die out. And sometime between now and then, the ultimate symbol of Britannia that New Zealanders fought and died for, the Queen of England will die too. As a figurehead of the monarchy who grew in stature and saw off some of the most challenging post war issues in Britain, the Queen as much as the Union Jack in the corner of the flag was – and still is – a link back to a place that some call the Motherland or the Fatherland.
When that connection is severed – it might be tomorrow or another decade and a half – I will acknowledge the departure of the link between New Zealand and the British Empire, for the Union Jack will then be redundant. It will be a part of yesteryear, just like the old naval ensign. That time is coming, but this was not it.
So, enjoy this flag whilst it lasts because when change eventually comes, even the traditionalists are going to have a hard time stopping the tide.